Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spur of the Moment (Mt. Baldy)

Patrick Moran and I planned to hike the Devil's Backbone Trail on Mt. Baldy yesterday.  But after walking up the dirt road for twenty minutes, the urge to get off the beaten path became irresistible.  Thus, on a whim, we ascended a trail-less spur ridge that drops down from Devil's Backbone, two ridges east of Register Ridge.  We eventually merged with the trail and followed it to the top, which we reached at 9:00AM. 


Gaining the ridge after ten minutes of groveling

 Comfortable walking on a bed of pine needles

An unusual angle of Baldy Bowl 

Devil's Backbone Trail

The final slog to the summit

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

West Horsethief / Trabuco Canyon Lollipop

On Saturday (February 11), Abby and I hired a babysitter and explored new terrain (for us, anyway) in the Santa Ana Mountains.  The trailhead was at the very end of Trabuco Creek Road.  Although the first half of the road was improved, the second half was as rough as ever, so we were glad to be in our AWD Subaru . . . at least initially. 

From road's end, we hiked up Trabuco Canyon to the junction with the West Horsethief Trail, avoiding fresh deposits of horse poop along the way.  After the zigzagging ascent of West Horsehief, we intersected Main Divide Road, which we followed for a couple scenic miles to Los Pinos Saddle.  There we headed downhill on the Trabuco Canyon Trail, occasionally jumping out of the way to avoid collisions with reckless and very serious mountain bikers -- they're probably having "fun" in some remote sense of the word, but they often don't look like it.

Returning to the car, we made it about 100 feet before the front right tire exploded after being punctured by a tree root.

The numbers: 10 miles, 2700 vertical feet.

What Abby's car may have become had we not brought a spare tire. 

 Ascending the switchbacks on West Horsethief Trail. 

Getting close to Main Divide Road above the switchbacks. 

Among the conifers on Main Divide Road. Lots of varied vegetation on this hike.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sugarloaf Ridge to Ontario Peak

Last weekend (February 5 to be precise), six of us scampered up the mostly off-trail Sugarloaf Ridge route to the summit of Ontario Peak in the San Gabriels.  The route involves hiking for about 15 minutes up the popular Icehouse Canyon Trail, stepping off trail and scrambling up Falling Rock Canyon for an hour or so, swimming up the scree slope to Sugarloaf Saddle, negotiating Sugarloaf Ridge for a couple hours, and finally intersecting the beaten path for a few minutes to the craggy top. If I recall correctly, it took about 6.5 hours, including a descent of the friendly, albeit icy, trail. 

Patrick swimming up the scree slope to Sugarloaf Saddle. 

Not much snow in early February on the north side of Ontario Peak.  

Tracie and Norma near the top of Sugarloaf Ridge with a snow-free Baldy Bowl in the background.  This is February? 

The gang (Norma, Tracie, Phil, Patrick, and Dave) on the trail back to Icehouse Saddle.

"The Last Step: The American Ascent of K2"

The Last Step: The American Ascent of K2 by Rick Ridgeway is a thorough and very well-written account of the 1978 expedition that put four Americans on the summit of the world's second highest peak.  Led by Jim Whittaker, who had been the first American to climb Everest in 1963 (and by a new route at that), the expedition was only the third (1954, 1977) to put climbers on K2's summit. 

The four climbers who summitted were Lou Reichardt and Jim Wickwire on one day and Rick Ridgeway and John Roskelley on the next.  Wickwire endured an open bivouac just below the summit, for which he later paid a steep price, and Ridgeway's and Roskelley's tent and one sleeping bag were destroyed by a stove fire after returning to camp from the summit.  Remarkably, there were no fatalities on the expedition.

The team of fourteen climbers took over two months to forge the route up the Northeast Ridge, which had never been followed to the summit. Like most expeditions on 8,000-meter peaks, this one sounded miserable.  Everyone suffered. Adding to the complexity, but ultimately making for a better read, was the affair between Chris Chandler and Cherie Bech, especially because Cherie's husband Terry was also on the expedition.